Monday, May 13, 2019

Kotas Reviews Mexican Jalepeno Peanut M&Ms

I suppose some people never learn a lesson. No matter how much you try and teach them a thing, all you get is a vague nod and then six months later they do the exact same thing wrong, again. One can only shake one's head at it, and either give up, or try again, hoping for a different outcome. Well call me stupid, because here I go again. Ladies and Gentlemen, let's dive in to Mexican Jalepeno M&Ms.

Thanks, I hate it.
This is not the first time Mars has come out with a spicy peanut M&M, but I guess it's been three years and they needed something as filler for their latest promotion, which is "International" flavors. Now, jalepenos make sense here, because they are widely grown in Mexico, and can be used in a lot of traditional Mexican cuisine. But...really? Just Yellow holding a bunch of peppers in a sombrero? Where's the Mexican flag? The package is green, sure, I get it, but...this is it? The art is very disappointing is what I'm saying. I don't even get the color scheme they went with: red and green for the peppers, sure. But...why yellow? Because it is the 'famous' peanut M&M? White would have been MUCH better to really hammer home the International theme as those would be the colors of the Mexican flag. This just screams of laziness. Oh well, maybe it'll taste good. 

This is just sad.
Well, it looks like M&Ms. So that's cool, I guess. Why the hell are we using Peanut M&Ms for this? The flavor is just like it was with the Chili Nut M&Ms: Peanut M&M, then hot. I thought I maybe got the barest hint of jalepeno-esque flavor at one point, but I think I can chalk that up to wishful thinking. There's nothing Jalepeno about this, it's just the same old crap repackaged in slapdash "international" packaging. I don't really see the appeal of mass produced chocolate and "burning", but I guess I don't understand marketing.

On the FACE Rating System, these get 1 Frowny Face. I don't get why these needed to exist, but I gather they needed something for their dumb ass promotion and slapped this together in about 3 days. Don't buy these, don't bother with these. If you really need spicy chocolate and nuts, sprinkle some cayanne pepper on a Mr. Goodbar and save yourself some trouble. They ain't paying me enough for this job.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Kotas Reviews Bang Rainbow Unicorn Energy Drink

It hasn't been that long since my last review of Bang products, but I had a moment of weakness after a very rough day and needed a serious pick me up. Lo and behold, I found that Bang was there for me. Or, was it? Perhaps it was simply a gateway to strange and twisted vistas, where dark presences lurk and wait for us to blindly stumble past them unaware, disdainfully gazing upon our forms with all the contempt one summons for the insect that buzzes your ear. Or maybe I was just really, really tired. Ladies and Gentlemen, let's take a look at Bang Rainbow Unicorn.

Why the fuck is this named Rainbow Unicorn? As I've stated before many energy drinks have odd names that only vaguely relate to what they actually taste like, but this one really pulls out all the stops and just straight up won't tell you what it tastes like. "What flavor is this?" "Mythical Animal". "No really, what flavor is this" *raised middle fingers*. If there was any whimsy that could be injected into this in the name of having something "cute" I could almost understand it, but there's nothing whimsical about this at all. The can isn't even RAINBOW COLORED! What is it about this drink that I am supposed to glean? Eh, fuck it. Let's open it up.

Once again the drink is straight up clear, further emphasizing how far away from anything resembling normal drink this is. A clear medium through which flavors are communicated is the clearest sign of Chemical Magic occurring, and is never something to be taken lightly. Also, where is my GOD DAMN WHIMSY? Ugh, can you lose Sanity from consuming a drink? WELL I GUESS WE'RE ABOUT TO FUCKIN' FIND OUT.

Oh god, it tastes like the blood of Care Bears. So sickeningly sweet and cloying, yet also completely mishmashed as a concept! The primary flavor is "artificial watermelon", but it is cojoined in an awful way with "artificial bubblegum" flavoring. No, not "Watermelon Bubblegum", but "Watermelon AND Bubblegum simultaneously". If you cannot tell the difference, that's probably a good sign, given that I may have been driven to madness by this eldritch drink. I'll say this though, if you can choke it down, it will put a bit of pep in your step. I don't know that it's worth the journey, but the destination could be worse. 

On the Face Rating System, this gets 3 Frownie Faces. If you feasted on the entrails of a Popple, or maybe just ate a Snork whole, this is the flavor of the juice that would drip off your chin. Stay the hell away if you value your taste buds. 

Friday, April 26, 2019

Kotas Reviews Buffalo Wing Cheez-Its

More and more flavors just keep showing up in random places, and in ways I never expected. If you told me five years ago that I would one day be eating electric potato chips I'd have called you mad. But, here we are in this timeline and not another more different timeline where those chips don't exist. So of course we're gonna look at Cheez-Its now. Ladies and Gentlemen, let's take a gander at Buffalo Wing Cheez-Its.

100% Real Advertising
Cheez-Its are one of those snacks that has just always been around. Introduced in 1921 by the Green & Green company, and now a part of Kellogg under its Sunshine Biscuits subsidiary, Cheez Its were always the comfort food of my mother. Growing up they were always around my house, but since I'm not a fan of cheese crackers in general, they aren't something I eat very often. A saltier, slightly greasier variant of the Goldfish, they just never did anything for me. I'd eat a few if I had nothing else to snack on and just couldn't wait, but other then that? Incredibly meh. Like Funyuns. Have you ever seen anyone actually BUY Funyuns who wasn't being affected by a mind altering substance? I haven't, and yet somehow I keep seeing them on the store shelves, and you know, I'll have a few if the bag is there, open, and there isn't anything else there. Suffice it to say, these ain't thrillin' me generally. Let's see what we've got. 

Well, this is certainly a Cheez It box. The art here isn't particularly interesting, but it does communicate the new flavor and has a picture of that flavor on it. The edge of the black square being similar to a Cheez It is also a nice touch. I do wonder at the choice of flavors though. When I think "buffalo wing" I have never really thought of it in the context of cheese, other than blue cheese, and let me tell you, Cheez Its aren't even remotely related to blue cheese, despite the shared idea of cheese. Let's crack it open.

Yeah, these aren't terribly exciting out of the box either. The pic above is a little washed out, but they just look like Cheez Its with a slightly redder bit of flavor dust on them. Very hum drum. The flavor though? Well, let's just say I was very surprised. These have a really nice vinegar buffalo wing sauce taste, though without the giant hit of peppery heat that usually accompanies wing sauce. There is a touch of heat, sure, but it isn't the primary component and is more of a "oh, right, this is supposed to be buffalo wing flavor" afterthought. What they don't really taste like is a Cheez It. The cheese base of the cracker is almost completely muted in this particular outing, which is actually a good thing for me, but probably not to Cheez It fans. Definitely a surprise!

On the FACE Rating System, these get 1 Smiley Face. If I am ever in the mood for a strongly flavored snacking cracker, these are up there on my list. However, they are still Cheez Its and thus not completely amazing, and a true Cheez It fan won't find much here to recommend unless they are also fans of "not hot, vinegary, buffalo wing sauce". Definitely give them a try, but be warned these aren't really for everyone.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Kotas Reviews Bang Cotton Candy Energy Drink

When I was a younger man, I used to partake of energy drinks on a semi-regular basis. It was never a daily thing, but I would indulge in a Red Bull to get through a long night, and eventually settled on Rockstar as my preferred brand of self punishment. I can understand that some people enjoy the flavor, but none of them have resonated with me as being "good". Still, manufacturers keep trying to do this for a variety of reasons. HOWEVER, when you get asked specifically to review a product by a friend? Oh, this is gonna be a heck of a ride. Ladies and Gentlemen, let's take a look at Bang Cotton Candy.

More like "Wang" amirite? No? Just me then? Crap.
Honestly, I had never heard of the Bang brand of "brain and body fuel" until last month, when someone said I had to try the Cotton Candy flavored version. They even brought me a can! Well, how can one say no to that sort of prodding? Anyway, I have never found energy drinks to taste "good", but I can appreciate the unique and charming flavor that many seem to have. It's also weird that Bang has a recognizable flavor name, unlike "Zero Silver Ice", "Juiced" and "Recovery Grape". The can is a nice black and pink, with the brand and flavor name front and center. It also has Super Creatine written on it. I'm sure that's fine. Let's open it up.

Kind of anticlimactic really
So, this stuff smells a LOT like cotton candy flavoring, but it has the super chemical overtone of sucralose, which makes sense since this is sweetened with it. The fact that it is clear very much disturbs me, since I figured it would be at least a little pink. This kinda blows my mind, but I've not let common sense dictate my drinking since...a while. Down the fuckin' hatch. Dear lord, this is sickeningly sweet. The cotton candy flavor is definitely front and center, but it also tastes like what I imagine the mop water of a chemical factory tastes like: weird and off putting. There's a bitterness and a "chemical" essence that melds with the cotton candy. If you could spin artificial sweetener into cotton candy, this is exactly how I imagine it would taste. 

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 1 Frowny Face. It's not poison, and it does resemble what it claims to resemble, but whatever else they put in here (I'm looking at YOU Super Creatine) had to have come from an Erlenmeyer flask to make it this Not Good. Even if you like energy drinks as a flavor, the sickeningly sweet cotton candy + Du Pont notes may put you off. Try it if you must, but don't say I didn't warn you.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Kotas Reviews Sailor Boy Pilot Bread

There are those among my friends and acquaintances who would call me a gourmand. After all, this blog is proof that I go out of my way to sample new and interesting (if not always tasty) foodstuffs. Unfortunately for them, I cannot state that I am. While I might in fact be a foodie, albeit one with a very warped sense of what consists of "food", my palate is about as refined as plywood. So what better way to put all this to the test than to sample some fuckin' hard tack? Ladies and Gentlemen, let's take a look at Sailor Boy Pilot Bread.

He's very jaunty, that Sailor Boy.
So, I love crackers. Wheat, oyster, buttered, water, or saltine I am a huge fan of most forms of cracker. This probably stems from my adoration of bread, but I love crackers. One type I've never tried, mostly because why would any sane person desire it, is the humble hard tack biscuit. A very simple product made of flour, salt, and a touch of water, then baked hard to serve as a source of stored calories for soldiers and sailors, hard tack was one of the first formalized forms of rations for various wars in the past. Civil War enthusiasts make it for various reenactments, but since the military switched over to canning it hasn't been too popular. It is noted for its extremely long shelf life, durability, and difficulty in eating. What it is not known for is flavor. Well, occasionally I get interested in "old timey" stuff (curse you Jas Townsend & Sons) and saw a bit about hard tack. Now, I'm a lazy man at heart, so I went looking around for some to buy. Lo and behold, Sailor Boy Pilot Bread came up as one of the only commercially available hard tack esque product around. And hey, it's on Amazon! So I ended up buying a 2 pound box. The artwork is delightfully "retro". I'm sure it's fine. Let's see what they look like!

With peanut butter jar lid for scale.
Well, look at those beauties! These things are quite sizable and thick, much thicker than things I normally consider to be crackers. They are slightly greasy to the touch too, probably because of the palm oil used to make them. Historical side note, oil in hard tack isn't really a thing, but these are not exactly authentic hard tack. Still, they do maintain some of the properties of such, like long shelf life, and durability. However, the real question is: how do they taste? The answer might shock you!

Well, probably not. They taste a lot like unsalted crackers. It's nothing to write home about, but they are decent enough crackers if you like something more substantial than saltines. They go well with soups and stews, and can add body when broken into smaller pieces. Bland, but fairly nourishing, with each cracker weighing in at a hefty 100 calories each. I can see why survival minded folk would like having these around. 

On the FACE Rating System, these get 1 Smiley Face. I do actually like the flavor, but most of that is my rampant bread lust shining through, as these have a much more breadlike flavor than most crackers to me. They aren't anything more than they seem to be, and that suits me just fine. Give 'em a try if you get a chance, but don't go crazy. They will keep a very long time, so they would be great in as part of a flood or tornado kit. Also good for warding away Wendigos, or so I've heard. Anyone else feeling a bit peckish all of a sudden?

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Kotas Reviews Simple Truth Natural Turkey Burgers

We live in a modern age full of modern conveniences, especially when it comes to food. Electric powered ovens and stoves help us cook food we store in our refrigerators, or we can simply summon a car with a driver to deliver unto us whatever food we desire (at least so long as they have an UberEats arrangement). Truly, we live in a world where more good food is available than any one person could possibly eat. So let's look at some of that convenience food. Ladies and Gentlemen, we take a look at Simple Truth Natural Turkey Burgers.

It's the Simple Truth, this is a box from my freezer.
It's not exactly a secret that I am not the best at cooking preparation. How I long for the extravagance of having a prep chef available for when I decide I feel like cooking something that involves more than "open bag, add to boiling water, drain and serve". Still, I do enjoy grilling and I also enjoy burgers of many variations. My spouse and I have also had good success using chicken burgers from this same brand, so when we accidentally picked up these instead we figured we would be just fine. 

Simple Truth is the brand name for the Krogers in-house brand of organic grocery products. Yeah, yeah I know "organic" is just a marketing label, but many of their foods are actually fairly tasty, like the aforementioned chicken burgers so we keep some of them in the house. The packaging makes the patty look to be pretty good, though I have no idea what the hell it is supposed to be resting on. Is that pimento cheese? Bleah! Anyway, I cracked the box.

Yeah, those are frozen ground meat patties alright. Into the pan they go! They acted pretty much like any other pre-made frozen meat patty, so I'll skip the details, but they done cooked up right pretty. We also added some Worcestershire sauce for a bit of extra flavor. Let's put it on a bun!

Yeah, that's a burger. With ketchup and mustard no less.
 When I bit into my burger, something was off, but I couldn't quite place it. Was it the texture? No, the patty was nice and well done without being dry. The scent? Well, turkey isn't known for its heavy odor, so that wasn't it. It took me a few more bites, but I finally figured out what was wrong: the patty itself had exactly ZERO flavor. Literally all I could taste was the bun and the smear of condiments I had placed upon it. There was no turkey flavor at all. At first I thought it was me, so I asked my spouse what hers tasted like. She thought for a minute and said "Oh. Nothing. Weird." As a final, somewhat icky test, I found a bit of protein juice that leaked out of the patty and cooked up in the hot pan. On a chicken burger, this stuff has an incredibly strong chicken flavor if you eat it (or so I've heard *cough*). For this patty? It was like chewing paste. No flavor at all. What the ever-loving shit is this trash?

On the FACE Rating System, these get 3 Frowny Faces. How the hell do you fuck up a meat patty? Apparently by draining every iota of taste out of it. If there was a white can just labeled "FOOD", this is how I would expect it to taste. Hardtack has a more nuanced flavor profile than this garbage. Stay the hell away!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Kotas Reviews Orange Vanilla Coca Cola

There are a pile of flavored sodas on the market. From the ignoble beginnings of Fanta (seriously, go look this up) to the plain weirdness of Jones Soda, there are beau-coup varieties of soda flavors available to the average consumer. Only rarely does the introduction of a flavor shake up the market, usually coming from one of the two 800 pound rhinos in the market: Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Cherry Coke ushered in the "cola with fruit flavor" soda as a type in the 80s and Pepsi Twist started the "cola flavored with citrus" craze of the mid-2000s, so they tend to have an out sized impact. Anyway, that's a lot of lead up for me to tell you that we're looking at Yet Another Cola With Additional Flavor product. Ladies and Gentlemen, let's take a look at Orange Vanilla Coca-Cola.

I'm not sure why Coca-Cola needed an Orange Vanilla flavored version, honestly. I have always enjoyed Coca-Cola, though these days it is more of a "once a week" thing than a "once a meal" thing as it was in my younger days. As a wee lad I enjoyed Cherry Coke more than perhaps was healthy, so I have experience with "cola + fruit" sodas. Orange Vanilla though, I'm not sure about. Vanilla and Cola is pretty tasty, but nothing I would go out of my way to get. Orange and cola is not a combo I would have ever thought might be good. Still, citrus flavors do compliment Coca-Cola pretty well so maybe it will be fine? Let's open it up!

I'm not sure what you were expecting.
Yep. It's a cola, which means it is a very dark liquid. Nothing too surprising here. The scent is a nice strong orange scent with hints of cola and a creaminess I assume is the vanilla peeking through. It's a pleasant scent that I wouldn't mind having as an air freshener in my car. Let's drink it up! The flavor is almost an inversion of the scent. The cola flavor is very strong, with a bit of orange flavor and a creaminess associated with vanilla that smooths out the whole thing, though definitely less vanilla-y than Coke with Vanilla. It's a nice little flavor, but it's not that much different from regular Coke. It's fine is what I'm saying.

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 0 Faces. It tastes fine, but it isn't a strong flavor nor particularly interesting. If someone hands me this, or I accidentally get one instead of a regular Coke I will happily drink it, but I ain't beating down a door to get this specific flavor. Try some at your local gas station today!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Kotas Reviews Flamin' Hot Dill Pickle Remix Lay's

This job hobby glorious sideshow that I call a blog has brought me to lots of strange places over the years. From float tanks to plays about abstract art, my desire for tens of fans has presented me with numerous unusual situations. Though, if I'm honest, most of those experiences have been in the grocery store picking out weird ass food flavors. Today is not going to be an exception, and hoo boy, the folks down at Lay's are really smokin' up lately. Ladies and Gentleman, today we dig into Flamin' Hot Dill Pickle Remix Lay's.

What is even happening now?
Man, this bag looks like the late 80s exploded all over it. Hot neon pink highlights, ridiculous font choices that vary between words, use of the word "remix" in a non-musical context, this packaging has it all. It even has accurate pictures of both the flavor items AND the final product! Rad I tell you! Now, if you are a regular reader of this blog, as I know both of you are, you will know that when it comes to spicy snacks, I want more than just heat. There has to be flavor too. The "Flamin' Hot" sub-brand is very hit or miss when it comes to these, but the addition of dill pickle seems...very strange. It's not like Dill Pickle is a flavor that most people want to eat. I mean, I do, but I a damn Internet Weirdo so I don't think I am representative of most people. Still, they keep makin' 'em so someone's gotta be eatin' 'em. I must admit I am dubious of the validity of this flavor combination, but here we are. Let's eat.

Flavor Dust Storms are a real problem on Planet Novelty
Yeah, the chips are just reddish, as is expected from something labeled "Flamin' Hot". It is however not quite as red I as I would expect. The scent is heavy on the dill and 'spice' notes, that sends little burning sensations up the nostrils. I'm sure it's fine. They taste like Dill Pickle chips with a lot of heat added to them. The combination works surprisingly well really. The dill pickle flavor is strong but not overwhelming and the spice is heavy but does not subsume the dill pickle. The potato flavor is there too, though much muted compared to the other two strong flavors. I wouldn't have thought that "spicy dill pickle" would be a chip flavor I would enjoy but once again Food Science has humbled me.

On the FACE Rating System, these get 2 Smiley Faces. They aren't amazingly good, but they are a fine chip to have when you want something spicy and savory. The dill pickle/heat combo is excellent, but it isn't something I would want to eat all the time. If you like dill pickle chips and spicy snacks, treat yourself to these before they are out of stores. However if you dislike either of those, this combination will only have you sad and burning.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Kotas Reviews Captain Marvel

Well, it's been a loooong time since I've written about Marvel Movies, hasn't it? To be fair, it's been a long time since I've seen a Marvel Movie when it was actually relevant to the current popular cultural scene. Still, I had to make some time for this one, for reasons that will probably become clear soon enough. Ladies and Gentlemen, children of some ages, let's take a look at Disney's Captain Marvel.

Buy the trade now on Amazon!
Even by Comic Book standards, the history of Captain Marvel is convoluted as hell, even if we keep that history focused solely on Carol Danvers. The original Captain Marvel, the Kree agent turned Protector of the Universe Mar-Vell, was long gone by the time I got sucked into comics as a wee lad. I grew up on the Monica Rambeau version a.k.a. Photon a.k.a. Spectrum. Still, the legacy of Mar-Vell touched a large part of the Marvel Cosmic Mythology and was a direct influence on my personal favorite cosmic hero, Quasar. Who also has a convoluted backstory and weird history for a dude who started off as a Take That version of Hal Jordan. No less than seven different characters have held the title of Captain Marvel, and at least two of them have also been Quasar at one point or another. Carol herself has had 3 previous superhero identities before taking on the mantle of Captain Marvel in the comics: Ms. Marvel, Binary, and Warbird. Her powers have been granted, taken away, super charged, altered entirely, and then melded together. Why, it's almost like comic books are weird! So, knowing all of that weirdness, how can a movie possibly try and reconcile all of that? In short, it doesn't, and that's a good thing. There will be a few spoilers below, so skip to the final paragraph for the FACE Rating and my overall thoughts.

The choice to start with Vers on Hala and then slowly introduce the bits and pieces that eventually make up Carol Danvers ends up being a great storytelling device, but it sure seems a bit disjointed at the beginning. Luckily, once the action shifts to Earth, the character development and chemistry between all the primary cast members really gels, particularly when the movie becomes a buddy cop film between Samuel Jackson's Nick Fury and Brie Larson's Vers. Those two bring a wonderful dynamic to the film that is absolutely a delight to watch. Larson has good chemistry with Lashana Lynch as Maria Rambeau too, which really helps sell some of the more interesting character moments. Larson's confident, no bullshit attitude when it comes to fighting the bad guys is also great, as is the sheer joy she takes in her powers. They aren't a curse, they are a gift and there is little angst to be found about it as she whoops and hollers her way through a bunch of battle cruisers in the climatic space battle. The trademark Marvel comedy is here in spades, and everyone gets in on the act. There is also a cat named Goose and a Fonz lunchbox that both serve similar purposes in the film at one point or another.

As a complete Marvel Nerd, I deeply appreciated all the nods at the many other Captain Marvels in comic history that showed up in this film. The Kree uniform she starts out in is a tribute to the original comic suit of Mar-Vell, Maria Rambeau's pilot handle of "Photon", as well as the fact that her daughter's name is Monica, are both tributes to the Monica Rambeau incarnation. During a sequence where Carol and Monica are updating the look of her costume, several of the rejected outfits reference the other Marvel er, Marvels, and there's even a blink and you'll miss it bit of shade thrown at DC's Captain Marvel/Shazam, as the costume takes on his traditional colors and it is rejected with a "...Naaaaaah". I acknowledge my deep nerdiness here, so just bear with me. Oh, and the CGI that made "Young" Nick Fury is top notch. The CGI on Goose...less so.

Unfortunately there are some parts of this film that do not work super well. As I stated before, the opening is a bit disjointed in the storytelling. The antagonists are the blandest of the bland, such that none of them stand out too much. Talos and Yon-Rogg are about the only aliens of interest on any side, and even they tend to be fairly generic as they toss the Villain Ball back and forth a few times. The Supreme Intelligence is made of dull and is just super meh in my opinion. Mar-Vell, for all five minutes she's in the film, is great but super under utilized. The origin of Danvers' powers makes the Tesseract/Space Stone the Infinity Stone with the most possible users and people affected by it. It really gets around, don't it? 

On the FACE Rating System, I give Captain Marvel 3 Smiley Faces. I love cosmic Marvel stuff and this movie is right up my damn alley, however it definitely follows a formula and has its flaws. When you have villains like the Vulture and Killmonger being so damn interesting, only to follow those up with some bog standard boring ones, it's a little bit of a let down, but the character bits between the good guys more than make up for that. Other people will probably rate this movie lower than I will, but I acknowledge my Carol Danvers bias. Go out and see it!

Friday, March 15, 2019

Kotas Reviews Electric Lime and Sea Salt Lays

Ah, it's Spring. The time of hay fever, 30 degree temperature swings over the course of 8 hours, and whatever new flavor monstrosities that Lay's has cooked up for us over the winter. We're reaching the long tail of this phase of flavor expansions though, as you'll see. I've seen this before, when a company has run through innumerable flavor combinations and just starts jamming together crap and slapping a weird name on it. I saw it with Kool-Aid, I saw it with Oreo, and I'm seeing it again with Lay's. But ya'll ain't here for a history lesson, so let's get to it. Today we review Lay's Electric Lime and Sea Salt chips.

Wavy, because shut up!
Here we go again down the rabbit hole of chip flavors that the Lord Himself never intended. I do appreciate a willingness to experiment, but at this point I think the R&D folk are just snorting flavor dust and randomly assigning things. Eh, let's get on with it. The bag is actually kinda cool, with a shiny foil edging, but the main picture, while well staged, is just sorta...meh? If it's so damn electric why aren't there lightning bolts or something around the lime and sea salt? No, it looks like an unfinished art installation. Still, it's not terrible and a meh package often conceals a taste sensation. Shall we open it? WE SHALL!

I bless the green flakes on my WAAAAAVY CHIIIIIIIPS! (with apologies to Toto)
They ain't much to look at, are they? They sort of resemble sour cream and onion chips, and have a similar looking flavor dust: white with green specks. What makes these electric again? I guess there is only one way to find out! Well, that wasn't what I expected, but I guess you could call it electric. The tang of citric acid is incredibly strong on these chips, almost overwhelming the lime flavor, but not quite. Additionally, the potato flavor is also incredibly strong, which doesn't mesh well with citric acid. You know what is really weird though? There is almost NO salt flavor! That's right, a chip whose two claims to fame are Lime and Sea Salt, only managed to get one of them even on the chip. Now, it's not a terrible flavor. I did not spit it out, and I will finish the bag eventually. It's just incredibly weird and disappointing. I think the lime part may have had a sweetness to it that somehow cancelled out the salt flavor, because these are potato chips so OF COURSE they have salt on them. It is just a really baffling flavor.

On the FACE Rating System, these chips get 1 Frowny Face. I can appreciate creativity and novelty as much as the next person, but this is just something that happened when a few of the people down in the Flavor Lab got high and started hallucinating. If you really love citric acid, and also think that it would go great with potato, I suppose these are the chips for you. For me however, I will move on to other, hopefully actually decent flavors.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Kotas Reviews Lava Cake Hershey's Kisses

Yeah, yeah I know it's MARCH. Lots of rain in March this year. I dread April Showers honestly, because they will bring, not May Flowers, but May Roof Repairs. Or not, I sure hope not. Anyway, I'm a bit behind in my Valentine's themed candy reviews, but does anyone care? Boy I sure hope not. Let's eat some candy! Today we review Lava Cake Hershey's Kisses.

So, yeah. That's a package.
I don't really get the fuss over lava cake in general. Sure, it's gooey and all, but the presentation always just leads me to think that the cake is underdone. All I know is that it was super trendy for a while for restaurants to have some sort of molten cake product on their menu and I wasn't having any of it. I REGRET NOTHING. Moving on, the package on these conveys the theme without overly stating it is a Valentine's Day edition of the candy. I'm not sure WHY you'd want to do that, given that it will be lumped in with the Valentine's stuff anyway, but I suppose you could argue that it doesn't deserve to be marked down 50% on February 15th if it doesn't explicitly say Valentine's Day on it. Let's tear it open!

Take it off! 
Yeah, it's a Hershey's Kiss alright. Unlike the usual ones, these have the glossier chocolate shell that is also the Hershey's version of Dark Chocolate. However, inside is a softer chocolate I think that is going for "ganache", but the Hershey version. Guess what? It's pretty darn good! While the outer shell has the standard Hershey's "plastic-y" overtone common in their dark chocolate, it is nicely mitigated by the soft center, which has a good rich Hershey's dark chocolate flavor. Yes, I'm being specific because Hershey's chocolate tends to taste unlike most other chocolate. 

On the FACE Rating System, I'd give these 1 Smiley Face. They taste pretty good, but they aren't too different from a regular Dark Chocolate Hershey's Kiss beyond texture. Still, the texture change is interesting, so give these a whirl unless you already don't like Hershey's Chocolate or Dark Chocolate. There is nothing to change your mind here.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Kotas Reviews Cap'n Crunch's Chocolatey Berry Crunch

Well, February rolls on with a number of semi-observed holidays like President's Day, Umbrella Day, and Public Sleeping Day, which is of course a fully recognized holiday that I didn't just make up. So what better way to vaguely celebrate such holidays than with a vaguely themed cereal that just so happens to be available in February? Right, let's get on with this and look at Cap'n Crunch's Chocolatey Berry Crunch.

That look says "I retire in 3 months, fuck it!"
Good old Cap'n Crunch. Lacerator of mouths, vehicle for sweetened corn, devestator of health and a truly delicious treat from my childhood. I gotta admit though, it ain't like it used to be. It's less sweet and far less slicey on the old palate than it was back in my childhood. Still, it brings fond memories and my child has an appreciate for their 'Berry version, particularly the "Oops, All Berries" type. Ah, youth. I always did wonder what it would be like in a chocolate version, and well, here it is fully formed before my eyes. The box art is in the category of "Fine". It does what it needs to do, but it's nothing special. Onward!

Yup. Looks like the output of a rock tumbler all right.

The smell is that vague chocolate smell you get when opening a box of Cocoa Puffs, though fainter, coupled with the artificial 'berry' scent of usual Crunchberries, with that generic sweetened corn cereal odor as your backstop. It's not bad, but again, it ain't anything you haven't smelled before. The taste however is kind of a disappointment. This is just Crunchberry cereal, with a tiny hint of some sort of chocolate that you only get in the aftertaste. If you poured a bowl of Cocoa Krispies, drained off the milk, and then poured Crunchberry cereal into that bowl and ate it you'd have an idea of the flavor profile here. The generic sweetened corn flavor dominates here as in most of the Cap'n's creations, so it's fine, but it does not wow me. True love's first cereal this ain't.

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 0 Faces. It's fine, but there is nothing here you can't get with regular Crunchberry cereal followed by a cup of chocolate milk. Hell, that might even have more chocolate punch. It's not bad, but it is ever so meh. Pass it by unless you are some sort of flavor completionist or blog writer.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Kotas Reviews Dark Chocolate Oreos

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! Who knew that a day in remembrance of a Catholic priest who ministered to Christians when it was illegal, and was beheaded for it, would turn into one of the biggest days of the year for confectioners everywhere, eh? Think about that while you gnaw your chalk-like hearts today. Still, today we review something only vaguely related to the holiday at hand: Dark Chocolate Oreos!

I love dark chocolate. Even the waxy bullcrap that Hershey's dares refer to as dark chocolate, I even love that. So you have to understand that the VERY MOMENT I saw these, I HAD to have them. My hype was real and I had a mighty need to shove these in my face as fast as a man can. But, we must exercise some restraint here. The packaging is as basic as it gets. It's an Oreo. It has purportedly dark chocolate filling. What else is there to say? RIP IT OPEN, I'M GOIN' IN!

The stegosaurus plate adds just the right touch of dignity.
Yup, that's dark chocolate. It is noticeably darker than regular old chocolate Oreos, which is nice. Fails horribly at the twist off test, but I suppose it matters less when the cookie and the filling are the same color. beat OM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM....

FUCK YES these are amazing. I have always been of the opinion that nothing could really top the original Oreo as my all time favorite, but you know what? These are legitimately the single BEST Oreo Nabisco has put out. The chocolate flavor is fucking spot on with that nice little bit of bitter and cocoa, but enough sweetness to make it the perfect chocolate cookie in the mouth. Holy Shit These Cookies! If it weren't for the fact that other people wanted to eat them, I would have hugged the package to my chest, growled at anyone who came near, and messily devoured the whole package. 

On the FACE Rating System, these get 4 Smiley Faces. Yes, they are that damn good. The only better cookies I've had in the chocolate category have been homemade ones (and those are way nicer than these), but for store bought? GIMME GIMME GIMME COOKIES!

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Kotas Reviews Hint Sparkling Water

Boy oh boy, flavored sparkling water is certainly becoming a thing, isn't it? It's been around for a long time, with brands such as Perrier and Le Croix starting decades ago, but it wasn't until recently that I started seeing other brands in stores, and an explosion of flavors to boot. Probably because sugary sodas and other drinks perceived as "unhealthy" have been experiencing a long decline in popularity. Gotta get that fizz fix somewhere! Even so, sometimes we get something weird as hell. Ladies and Gentlemen, let's take a look at Hint!

Courtesy of my local grocery clearance rack.
I can honestly say that I had never seen a mint flavored sparkling water until the day I saw these, so of course I had to try them. When I go for a sparkling water, I tend to go for fruit flavors or something like tonic water, which has a surprising amount of sugar in it, because quinine. The packaging is fairly generic. The "logo" if you can call it that is just a bolded font in red. The rest of the package is just...boring as hell. Then again, I paid $0.70 for this. How bad could it be?

Well, it certainly smells like peppermint, so it's got that going for it. It also tastes a bit like peppermint, though...well, it tastes like you would expect on the aftertaste of some other drink to taste. It's like they took the mint portion of the aftertaste of peppermint schnapps and bottled it. Not very sweet, fairly minty, but it doesn't linger at all. It's not bad, but it isn't great either.

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 0 Faces. It's fine, I guess, but unless you really, truly want mint in every aspect of your life, you can give this one a pass. The novelty is certainly there, so if you can pick it up for cheap while buying other, better things, it can't hurt to give it a whirl. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Kotas Reviews Carrot Cake Oreos

It'll be a cold day in Hades before you can convince me that trying to make food into something it isn't is a good idea. From the utter failure of the "Snackwell" cookie to come off as good for you, to the sheer lunacy of "healthy potato chips" full of Olestra, usually when a junk food tries to be healthy, it is either terrible in and of itself, or has weird and strange side effects from consumption, usually involving pooping. That said, some foods may sound healthy, but they pretend nothing, and it's your own fault for thinking that they could in any way be good for you. Enter the carrot cake. Ladies and Gentlemen, let's take a gander at Carrot Cake Oreos.

Carrot Cake is the like all children grow to love.
Well, here we are. Yet another Oreo review, and frankly I'm surprised it took this long for Nabisco to further plumb the depths of cake flavors beyond Red Velvet. I can't say anything bad about the packaging though. Nice picture of the flavor item, along with the actual Oreo version. Unfortunately for Nabisco, I'm not a fan of carrot cake. It's fine, I guess, but I certainly would never go out of my way to get it. I tend to think of it as trying to hard to differentiate itself from a spice cake, but it just ends up like a not quite as good spice cake that has carrot bits in it. Let's open this thing up!

Participation trophies all around.
There is a lot stronger spice scent to these than I was expecting. Maybe I've only ever had shitty carrot cake, but it hasn't really ever smelled like this to me. It's not a bad smell though, so that's good. The cookies look appropriately "non-normal Oreo" as befitting their status as "carrot cake cookies". The creme is either very similar or the same as the cream cheese creme from the Red Velvet Oreos. Very sweet, though not super chemical fakey, which is nice. 

The flavor is "cream cheese icing, with some spice cookie notes". The cookies themselves are very heavily spiced, but it is much more muted when paired with the cream cheese icing creme. These cookies taste alright, is what I'm saying. Still, I don't get much out of them that is carrot cake-ish. It's just a decent spice cookie with a decent paired filling. It is most definitely a cookie.

On the FACE Rating System, these get 0 Faces. They are a decent cookie, but I am just not a huge fan of the flavor they are trying to replicate, and the cookie doesn't do anything to change my mind. It's not very carrot-cake like to me, but it's a decent spice cookie. Some of you out there may adore this cookie, but it just isn't for me.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Kotas Reviews Peppermint Bark Oreos

Winter has certainly settled in, after that weird "warm snap" at the beginning of the new year. It's cold, wet, and ugly out, and I'm not happy with it. Still, this is the kind of weather that turns one's fancy toward hot chocolate and peppermints by the fire, under the warm glow of whatever show it is you are streaming on your giant HDTV. The simple life right? Eh, fuck that. Let's eat Oreos. Ladies and Gentlemen, let's take a look at Peppermint Bark Oreos.

Extra Fancy this go around.
For some reason, my in-laws always have a tin of "fancy yet generic at the same time" peppermint bark around Christmas time. It's a fine candy and all, but it's nothing to get too excited about. Still, it's pretty tasty and tends to pair fairly well with other things: coffee, other candy, the warmth and love of a family evening spent posting on social media. You know, the classical holiday stuff. So, naturally we have to somehow condense all that into a cookie manufactured by a corporate conglomerate. Well, the packaging is pretty good. Large pictures of the "item flavor", along with examples of the actual product, good font choices, the whole thing. Nabisco generally does a good job here and this is no exception. Let's rip it open!

Yup. That's an Oreo with candy cane bits in it.
The cookies themselves look like bog standard Oreos with pulverized candy canes added to the filling. I mean, that's probably what I expected but it's still kind of meh. The flavor however is very nice. The peppermint bits add a little texture, and the mint flavor is definitely there, but it's not overwhelming or dominating. It pairs very well with the dark chocolate flavor of the cookie. A solid little package of taste, and a bit refreshing. Good job Nabisco!

On the FACE Rating System, these get 2 Smiley Faces. Tasty, somewhat addictive, and perfect for any holiday gathering. I wouldn't want them all the time, but as soon as the air turns frosty, I will probably find myself reaching for these. And they taste great dipped in hot chocolate. Happy Winter!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Kotas Reviews Viticulture

Well, it's a brand new year we've found ourselves thrust into, eh? Last year was not the finest year for Kotas Reviews Everything. We had a lot of interesting reviews, but the review volume was much lower than I hoped it would be, with only 33 reviews all year! That's our lowest number of reviews since 2013! Isn't that crazy? Well, no. Been busy. Anyway, let's start the year off right with a board game review. Come with me into a land of vines, grapes, and being ruthlessly efficient with your employees. Ladies and Gentlemen, let's look into the world of Viticulture.

As fashionable as a Hallmark Card, and just as intense.
In case you weren't aware, board gaming is currently in the middle of a new Golden Age, or so I'm told. While board games have always been popular, the release of Settlers of Catan in 1995 kicked off a 24 year rise in the popularity of board games that continues to this day. I mean, heavy board gaming never really went away. My parents used to do marathon sessions of Diplomacy in their college years, and I remember playing Axis & Allies in high school, along with other classics like Hero Quest, Talisman, and in college, Cosmic Encounter. Still, with the rise of web video series like Tabletop in the early 2010s, and the advent of Kickstarter to fund much smaller production runs of "prestige" games like Scythe, Kingdom Death: Monster and today's subject, board gaming has never been hotter. Granted, I liked complex board games before it was cool, but you know, I'm glad everyone else is catching up.

Today we are looking at Viticulture, the first game release from the company Stonemaier Games, funded via Kickstarter in 2012, and released in 2013. Since then it's had an expansion (Tuscany), a second edition, and the version I have, which is the Essential Edition of this game of strategic wine making. This version incorporates rules updates from the second addition along with a few elements from the original Tuscany expansion. I got it as a Christmas present. Let's take a look at the board!

And what a board!
(Original Image from Shut Up & Sit Down:
Yeah, I should have snapped a picture of the game I played recently, but I didn't so I'm forced to "borrow" from another source. Anyway, my spouse and I played this with another couple, while our children devastated a room that wasn't the one we played in. Setup took a bit of time, for sure, and then explaining the rules took a bit longer, and we ultimately decided "let's just figure it out as we go". This worked surprisingly well, but I had watched a video on how to play so I was somewhat familiar with the game already. Anycrap, Viticulture is a game where you all are vineyard owners trying to become the most prestigious vineyard in all of...wherever the hell you scoring the most victory points. Victory points can be scored for a number of actions, but most of them will come from fulfilling wine orders (the purple cards). 

So, you may ask, how do you make wine? First, you have to plant vines in your fields. Then you have to harvest vines to get grapes. Then you have to crush the grapes into wine and store them in your wine cellar. Then, once they age up correctly, you can sell the wine! Seems simple enough...until your buddy decides they simply MUST crush grapes this winter and takes the last slot available to do so, and now you are stuck making one lousy coin. Ah, the joys of worker placement games. Each player has their own board, and interacts with both it and a central board. You start the game with a certain amount of workers and some money, along with a few cards and other bonuses based on your draws from the "Mama" and "Papa" decks. Then you randomly determine who the first player is, and the game begins with the Spring season. 

The game progresses through a full year on a turn, starting in Spring, where the players determine their action order for the rest of the year. Except for the first slot, each "slot" in the turn order grants a particular bonus to the person who selects it, from extra money to more cards to an extra worker for the year. Once everyone has picked a slot with their chicken token, the Summer season begins. Players place their workers in chicken order to take actions such as giving tours (generating funds), planting vines (playing green cards), drawing vine cards, building structures (which are required for some vine types, and grant other bonuses), or playing "Summer Visitor" cards that represent randos who wander into your vineyard and want to help you for some reason. Each of these actions has a limited number of "slots", which is usually about half the total player count, so you can get locked out of a slot. To ease this pain, everyone starts with one Grande Worker, who can ignore this rule. Once everyone has placed all they want to, and passed, the Fall Season begins. Everyone draws a new Visitor card (Summer or Winter), and then the Winter Season begins.

Bear in mind you do NOT reclaim workers from spaces until the end of the year, so if you used 'em all up in the Summer, Winter is gonna be dull. Winter is for harvesting grapes (making grape tokens), making wine (turning grape tokens into wine tokens), selling wine (playing purple cards), training new workers (getting more meeples), and playing "Winter Visitor" cards, representing additional weirdos. Once everyone has passed again, you do the "End of the Year" clean up stuff, reclaim your meeples, and start the whole thing over again with the Spring. Once someone hits 20 Victory Points, you just finish out the year and whoever has the most points wins. 

This game has a LOT of moving parts, and it takes a turn or two to get into the groove of play. Oh man, I could sell this wine for so many points and some money! But Jane just took the last wine making slot and my Grande worker was used for harvesting. Well, I can just do it later, but I'll need a bigger cellar, so I will need money, etc, etc. Once you get a decent wine making engine going, you can churn out a ton of wine, but if you didn't make time to sell as you go, you could still be behind in victory points at the end of the game. Or, if you go all in to try and end the game early, and make a mistake (like I did), you can give your opponents more time to catch up and ultimately take the win for themselves. A random worker card can really speed up your plan, or throw a wrench into it as you try and redirect your efforts into a new direction to take advantage of a powerful card you drew. It's fun, it's thoughtful, but it can be VERY slow...right up until it isn't. We played for three hours, and we probably could have gone another one, but I rushed to end it and everyone followed suit in a flurry of victory point gains. It's quite the time investment and can be somewhat confusing at times, since you often don't go in "table order", but by the order of your chickens, which is not something I'd ever thought I would say.

On the FACE Rating System, I give it 2 Smiley Faces. I enjoyed playing it quite a bit, but it's a heavier game than most and requires about a movie and a half's worth of time to experience. It is certainly possible to trim this down with familiarity, but the 45-90 minute claim on the box is a dirty, dirty lie. The theme is certainly there, but it supports the mechanics, rather than the other way around. All in all, if you like heavier board games and have a few hours to spend, it is a great way to relax with some friends, and maybe have a few glasses (or bottles) of the stuff you are pretending to make.